Archive | October, 2012

I Don’t Know How She Does It (2011) or livewithfilm broadens its horizons and suffers the consequences…

31 Oct

In the spirit of wider filmic know-how, livewithfilm decided to take the plunge. Don’t fret though, more horror fun will follow shortly!

Laughably labelling itself as a romantic comedy, Douglas McGrath’s I Don’t Know How She Does It remains an insufferable vision of entrenched sexism. Besides regarding itself in a falsely noble light, the film misses every opportunity for feminism or fun and merely affirms a phallocentric vision of working life. Sarah Jessica Parker once again struggles to find a role suited to her small screen strengths in busy mother Kate Reddy. Managing to juggle childcare with a high-flying financial role, Kate is applauded by all and sundry. Yet when business guru Pierce Brosnan threatens to whisk Kate away on global business trips, the heroine must choose between family and her job.

While bungling a hackneyed plot that adds little to a genre already saturated with sub par entries, McGrath instils a trying patronising streak tohis filmwhich marvels at the female capacity to work. Using its first act to shoehorn in its inquisitive title at every opportunity, the film positions Kate as an oestrogen fuelled totem for male compatriots to gawk at in wonder. Even though Pierce Brosnan’s jet-setting silver fox can happily undertake a full time job, Sarah Jessica Parker’s workload is constantly signposted as a cause for contention. Concluding that a woman must choose to either be suppressed housewife or power-suited breadwinner, I Don’t Know How She Does It reinforces tired gender roles unsuited to the Carrie Bradshaw era rom-com. Woefully out of touch with contemporary enlightened thought, even Mad Men’s exceptionally powerful Christina Hendricks is sidelined amongst an ensemble of underdeveloped female characters.

Having shown his capacity to support complex plots and career defining performances in overlooked Truman Capote pic Infamous, McGrath’s mishandling of narrative sense in I Don’t Know How She Does It seems all the more disheartening. Apropos to nothing, the film decides to indulge in vérité straight to camera interludes which only resurface during the final scrabble for a conclusion. While McGrath could be applauded for seeking to add something unexpected to his film, the director doesn’t have the conviction to use this tool for any real means. It is as if the self aware artistry of the Nouvelle Vague has been filtered down into an empty, time wasting gesture. Yes the fourth wall is shattered, but the film’s foundations are taken with it.

I Don’t Know How She Does It has nothing original to say, in fact only undermining a genre previously adept at envisioning powerful female leads. While causing a solitary laugh at the expense of its banking protagonists, the film is awe inspiringly unfunny. Jokes don’t simply fail they are nonexistent, sucked into a bland black-hole of thumb twiddling tedium. Adding to the woe, the real comic talents of Sarah Jessica Parker, Kelsey Grammer and Saturday Night Live regular Seth Meyers go entirely to seed. The real question to be answered remains: I don’t know why they made it.

Double bill: Manhunter (1986) & The Silence of the Lambs (1991) or livewithfilm enjoys its electro pop with a nice Chianti…

23 Oct

Potentially serving as the darkest double bill livewithfilm has yet to endure, the earliest incarnations of the Lecktor/Lecter tales remain surprisingly dissimilar and fuel fear in entirely different ways. While the violent aging of Michael Mann’s Manhunter has done it no favours (synth drum solos anyone?) it still can sit contentedly next to Jonathan Demme’s Academy busting Silence, perhaps even surpassing its younger sibling. Depending on how many sunsets and short-shorts one can stomach, Manhunter’s stylised yet realistic vision is truly skin-crawling and often surpasses the frequently bogeyman-esque horrors of Silence.

Alluding to previous battles with a one Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox), Manhunter sees psychologically fragile cop Will Graham (William Petersen) called back into the force to hunt down serial killer ‘The Toothfairy’. Entering into the murderer’s mindset, Graham risks insanity as he hunts his latest prey. Silence sees Lecter (here, Anthony Hopkins) consulted once again as trainee FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) hunts down a killer who skins his victims. Entering into a pact with Lecter, Starling is forced to confide deep secrets to the cannibal.

Both Cox and Hopkins excel as Lecktor and Lecter respectively, demonstrating different interpretations of the same maniacal character; yet, somewhat controversially, Cox’s remains superior. Hinting at the brutal genius of Lecktor, Manhunter teases a more chilling glimpse of insanity out of the villain. While Hopkins tears around his Perspex cage, Silence nearly explains him away, revealing all that Manhunter so eerily suggests. Hopkins is enthrallingly unnerving but remains in a film that could do with implying as much as it reveals.

Manhunter’s ‘monster’ is similarly more effective. A terrifying presence, Dollarhyde (Tom Noonan) is compellingly fleshed out, far more so than the at times Leatherface-styled Jame Gumb (Ted Lavine). When matching Gumb with Clarice however, Silence brings to the fore an intriguing gender-morphing dynamic implied throughout both films.

While it looks like livewithfilm has gone out to damn The Silence of the Lambs, this blogger agrees that the film is a classic piece of horror. Just don’t write off its earlier, and vastly underrated, predecessor.

With music like this over the closing sequence who could deny Manhunter’s classic status?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBWSocJMChA

On the Road (2012) or livewithfilm stops scatting to hitch a ride…

10 Oct

Ahead lies the road: hurtling down it steams this twitching, scintillating, rambunctious film, full of possibility and brimming with life. Spewed from Kerouac’s text yet in reality an independent piece in an entirely different medium, On the Road cannot be compared to its source. So indicative of a mood and bound within its form, the written journey remains unfilmable. Yet this is not to say Walter Salles’ film does not neatly harness that feeling and form a loving interpretation of it. While a little baggy (a near unforgivable misstep given the tightly wound quality of its source), On the Road burns with a flame even Dean Moriarty could appreciate.

 

Opening on the crowded art scene of New York circa 1947, On the Road plunges deep into the mangled worlds of Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and Carlo Marx (Tom Sturridge). Cutting violently and switching from hapless poet to wayward love interest, Salles utterly evokes this existence in his form, reproducing at once the heady highs of hipster life and the crippling incongruity these characters feel amid the stayed establishment.

 

Igniting their lives, Dean drives Sal and Carlo to further psychological and sexual lengths. Captivating and dauntingly bold, Hedlund utterly convinces as the formidable Dean. Slowly becoming the driving force of On the Road, Hedlund sucks attention towards him, remaining at once a thrilling and wretched presence.

 

As Dean and Carlo make their way to Denver, Sal is left to make his own way out of his city. With Sal travelling through evocative mountains, cotton fields and blazing sun, the camera still manages to resist simple shots. Jittering away like Sal’s itching lust for the road, Salles’ frame finds an intriguing abnormality in every image.

 

Finding themselves together once again, Sal and the newly married Dean venture out on an adventure of their own. Neatly followed by a near omnipresent musical beat, the duo storm towns and cities, continuing their search for an identity that constantly eludes them.

 

The host of hangers-on come to define On the Road, discarded and picked up with a surprising brutality. While Viggo Mortensen cleaves an exceptionally dark streak through the film’s mid-section as heroin addict Old Bull Lee, Kristen Stewart pulls in a career defining performance as Dean’s on-off wife Marylou to retain a feminine defiance amongst the male bravura. Even as Kirsten Dunst seems a little out of place throughout, her ever-harassed Camille suits her aloof presence. Calling Sal to dance, a filtered camera evokes the heroines of classical Hollywood in Camille, while all those around her flee for the future.

 

On the Road remains at its strongest when twitching with youthful exuberance. When attempting to force a fixed narrative voice onto the plot through voiceover, Salles only serves to slow the pace and stifle the wildness. Yet at its height, On the Road remains a trip to remember.

Dredd 3D (2012) or livewithfilm meets the anti-Bane….

6 Oct

Months ago, comfortably nestled in its nearest world-of-cine, livewithfilm chuckled its way through the trailer to Dredd 3D like the worst kind of celluloid snob. Frankly, who could blame it? Boasting what seemed like unimaginative violence, a hackneyed plot and little between the ears, Pete Travis’ vision of Megacity One was done no favours by its advertisement campaign. Some film-watching-weeks later, Dredd 3D is being lauded by every critic going, championed and held aloft as an example for action flicks everywhere. Always keen to be proved wrong, livewithfilm was sentenced to a spell in its local multiplex.

In a future America, the vast Megacity One is policed by units of Judges that hunt down criminals and enact brutal sentences. Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is tasked with evaluating psychic rookie Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) and accompanies her to investigate a murder in high rise tower block Peach Trees. Unwittingly entering the central hub of the Ma-Ma gang and its drug production unit, the pair of judges find themselves hunted down by bloodthirsty criminals and must fight their way to the top to escape.

Hyper-violence remains a difficult thing to portray on screen. While films like Rambo (2008) wrongly opt to validate excessive slaughter through a supposedly heroic central figure, Travis’ Dredd 3D takes a different, but far more misanthropic, route. With the exception of Thirlby’s Anderson, everyone in Megacity One is morally corrupt and repulsive: solipsistic to a homicidal degree. So while blood pours from every inch of the screen, Dredd 3D manages to escape the bitter aftertaste provided by so many corpse heavy action flicks by constantly affirming that the world has gone to hell in a handcart. Travis certainly pulls no punches and the shocking brutality of the world of the Judge works heavily in Dredd 3D’s favour. The destructive metropolis has infected its entire populace, making for an unrelentingly shocking and thrilling vision of the future.

Fittingly despicable, Dredd remains an intriguing antihero. With the top half of his face constantly covered, the Judge becomes a neat reversal of the gas mask brandishing Bane from The Dark Knight Rises (2012). While Bane used violence to create a chaotic new order, Dredd uses similar brutality to restrain revolutionary forces. Emerging from a violent setting to perform further acts of hatred, both characters are representative of a contemporary uneasiness with faceless figures of power and the modern world. Dredd 3D sticks to its guns to remain a satisfyingly sleazy exploitation nightmare which takes a parting shot at the world that spawned it. Perhaps livewithfilm needs to lighten up a little…